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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Peter 1:10-12

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080928_1peter_1_10-12.mp3

9/28 1 Peter 1:10-12 what prophets and angels long to know

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

1: 10 peri hv swthriav exezhthsan kai exhraunhsan profhtai oi peri thv eiv umav caritov profhteusantev 11 eraunwntev eiv tina h poion kairon edhlou to en autoiv pneuma cristou promarturomenon ta eiv criston payhmata kai tav meta tauta doxav 12 oiv apekalufyh oti ouc eautoiv umin de dihkonoun auta a nun anhggelh umin dia twn euaggelisamenwn umav pneumati agiw apostalenti ap ouranou eiv a epiyumousin aggeloi parakuqai

Peter is addressing Christians who are being persecuted for following Jesus. They are experiencing trials. They have been ostracized in their communities. And Peter is writing them a brief letter

1 Peter 5:12 …exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

Peter wants to see them stand firm in the true grace of God in spite of the trials. So first, he has acknowledged their alien status in their communities. They are exiles, aliens, sojourners. But then he points them to their status in God’s eyes. They are choice, precious, elect. The triune God is at work in them to secure their future hope. And this leads him into doxology – giving praise to God. He says ‘blessed be God’. And his blessing or praise has three parts. In verses 3-5 he finds the foundation for praise in our new birth which God brought about and which brings us into an inheritance that is kept securely for us and we by God’s power are being securely kept for it. Verses 6-9 point to the purpose of our present experiences. In this salvation, our new birth and future hope, we rejoice while at the same time we are grieved by trials, because we know the trials are a necessary part of our salvation. Trials prove our faith to be genuine. Our genuine faith is displayed by our love for Jesus, our trust in Jesus, our inexpressible joy in spite of our struggles. That joy in Jesus is an expression of worship or praise. And now in verses 10-12, we are pointed to the greatness of our salvation in contrast to the experience of prophets, evangelists, and even angels as fuel for our worship.

So in verse 10 he refers us back to ‘this salvation’. This is the salvation he mentioned at the end of verse 9; ‘the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls’. Salvation is a word we as Christians throw around a lot. I think it will benefit us greatly to pause and contemplate what we mean by the words we use. Salvation, or being ‘saved’ has two aspects; what we are saved from and what we are saved for. Let me illustrate these two aspects by using the word in different sentences. ‘The firefighter broke through my bedroom window and carried me down the ladder, saving me from the blaze that engulfed my house.’ Or ‘I am saving every extra penny for our vacation to Hawaii’. Or a young woman might say ‘I am saving myself for marriage’. In the first, there is a danger that would destroy us that we are rescued from. In the second, something or someone is being kept for a higher purpose, rather than being wasted. Both of these concepts are carried by the word ‘salvation’. Implicit in the word itself is the concept of being saved from a danger that would destroy us – elsewhere in scripture we find the danger identified as the wrath of God or hell, death, and the power of sin. We deserve to suffer under the fury of the Almighty because of our sins. Salvation means we are rescued from that coming punishment and escape out from under the penalty of our sins. Peter focuses our attention in the context more on the other side of salvation; we are kept from wasting our life because there is something so much better to spend it on. We are being saved from the attraction of the world and from wasting our life serving the devil and and for our great inheritance.

Salvation is at the center of the good news message. The good news answers the cry ‘what must I do to be saved?’ and the good news answer is ‘believe on the Lord Jesus’ (Acts 16:30-31). Salvation is not your own doing – it is something that is done to you. The firefighter came crashing through your window and woke you up and carried you down the ladder. Your money doesn’t save itself up for your vacation. By a conscious act of the will it has to be set aside for that purpose. Salvation is ‘by grace through faith’ (Eph. 2:8). Peter has explained the ‘by grace’ part of salvation when he describes his readers as ‘those who are elect… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit’. And he points to the ‘through faith’ part when he says ‘for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood’. He points to the ‘by grace’ part when he says that it was God’s great mercy that caused us to be born again’ and the ‘through faith’ part when he says you ‘are being guarded through faith for a salvation’ and in spite of not seeing Jesus you love and trust and rejoice in him, and obtain ‘the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls’.

It is this salvation of his readers that he has talked about in the first nine verses of his letter that he now points to as the topic of inquiry for prophets and angels. This salvation is also called ‘the grace that was to be yours’. We could describe our salvation, our rescue from judgment and for an inheritance simply as God’s grace extended in our direction. Literally he says ‘the to you grace’. It is undeserved kindness intended for you. The grace that you are right now experiencing from God was the topic of careful search and inquiry of all the prophets who prophesied. Peter is looking back over the entire Old Testament revelation and saying that the grace of God you are experiencing today is the focal point of it all. We learn some things about our bible from these verses. We learn how to use it, where it came from, what its central message is, and what it is meant to do.

I take the instruction on how to use the bible from the phrase ‘searched and inquired carefully’. In the Greek original, the phrase is ‘exezhthsan kai exhraunhsan‘, two words that sound similar and have very similar meanings to give emphasis to the intensity of their search. ‘exezhthsan‘ indicates an intensive search or investigation that considers the matter from every point of view. ‘exhraunhsan‘ indicates a search for something that is hidden. These words are not passive. They indicate strenuous effort and persistent mental exertion. The prefix of both words is ‘ek‘ which means ‘out of’. There are treasures buried in scripture that are waiting for us to exert the effort to get them out. We don’t come to the text bringing our treasures and ideas and try to plant them there. Instead we come with our tools and try to uncover what is really there, waiting to be discovered. If the prophets themselves made such careful search and inquiry into their own prophecies, should we not do the same? Some people might ask why we have spent five weeks on only 12 verses of 1 Peter, examining each phrase and looking behind the English translation to the Greek original. My reply is ‘exezhthsan kai exhraunhsan‘! God spoke to us. He preserved his word for us. He gave us the tools we need. He gave us a brain and the capacity for curiosity and investigation. Doesn’t God’s word deserve our careful attention?

I take the source and character of the bible from the phrase in verse 11 ‘the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating’. The Spirit of the Messiah, or the Holy Spirit, was revealing or indicating or making known. ‘Prophets who prophesied’ is explained and expanded by ‘the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating’. What the prophets wrote was not mere opinion or political commentary on life in ancient Israel. It was God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, making truth known to them. Peter describes the source of prophecy in 2 Peter 1:21:

2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Paul describes it this way:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God…

The author of Hebrews quoted the Old Testament by saying:

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, …

Hebrews 9:8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that …

So scripture is God’s Holy Spirit through the prophet communicating to us. But what is he communicating?

I see the central message or content of the bible indicated by what the prophets were making careful search and inquiry about. It was ‘concerning this salvation’, and they ‘prophesied about the grace that was to be yours’. But what was it that they wanted to know? It says in verse 11 ‘inquiring what person or time’; they understood salvation by grace through faith. They wanted to know when. What would be the time and circumstances of the Christ? Or who would fulfill the office of Messiah? Later in the verse, it says that ‘he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories’. The central theme of all of revelation is God’s grace in our salvation; displayed in the sufferings of Christ and his glories. This is what Jesus pointed out to his disciples on the road to Emmaus:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

By the example of the prophets, we are encouraged to search and inquire diligently into the biblical text; we understand that the bible is God’s Holy Spirit communicating to us; we see that the central theme and the unifying message of the entire bible is God’s grace in our salvation displayed by the suffering and subsequent glories of Jesus, and in verse 12 we see the purpose of prophecy. Prophecy was not primarily for the prophets. Prophecy was not even primarily for the people to whom the prophets prophesied. Prophecy’s primary purpose was for you! ‘It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you’. The Old Testament was written with you in mind!

Romans 4:23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also…

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

1 Corinthians 9:10 Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake…

Listen to how the author of Hebrews describes the Old Testament heroes and prophets:

Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–– 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated–– 38 of whom the world was not worthy––wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

We get a glimpse into this wrestling and struggling of the prophets to understand their prophecies when we look at Daniel:

Daniel 7:15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things.

Daniel 8:15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.” …19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. …26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.” 27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

Daniel 9:2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

Daniel 12:8 I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” 9 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.

So be encouraged, Christian reader, as you stand in awe of the faithful saints of the bible, that they were serving not themselves but you! The prophets of old served you with their prophecy and now Peter brings it up to date and says that the apostles and evangelists also serve you ‘in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven’. The things the prophets diligently searched and inquired into but could not understand, have now been declared to you through those who preached the gospel. This sheds some light on the role of the evangelist. God is announcing his good news through the preacher. And the preacher is not preaching in his own power. He preaches ‘by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.

Suffering Christian, be encouraged. You are the focal point of God’s redemptive plan. The prophets desperately wanted to know what you now understand. God has hidden it from them and revealed it to you. He has empowered apostles and evangelists to proclaim the good news of God’s grace to you. And not only prophets and evangelists, but also the angels. Peter throws in this provocative phrase at the end of his doxology: ‘things into which angels long to look.’ I wish we had more time to talk about angels. We learn from texts like Psalm 148:2-5, Nehemiah 9:6 and Colossians 1:16 that angels are created beings. They were created as angels and always will remain angels. They are spirit beings who are a different class of being from humans and animals and plants. Hebrews 1:13-14 tells us that angels serve God by ministering to us for our benefit.

Hebrews 1:13-14 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Angels are similar to us in that they are personal moral beings that were created with the capacity to love and serve God or to rebel and disobey. Jude verse 6 tells us that some rebelled against God. Peter tells us

2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

God apparently did not give fallen angels a second chance. They were not spared. They are being kept until the judgment. The author of Hebrews contrasts our situation with that of angels. We too rejected God’s authority and rebelled against him and we too deserve judgment. Jesus did not become an angel. Jesus became for a little while lower than the angels so that he could taste death for mankind (Heb.2:9)

Hebrews 2:16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.

Understanding the situation of angels, it is interesting to hear that angels are intensely interested in the grace of God that is extended to us. Angels only know justice. They have never experienced forgiveness. The holy angels have never sinned. They have no need of redemption. But God’s plan of salvation for human kind reveals a new facet of the glory of God’s grace. That’s why Jesus told us:

Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Look Michael, he took another one who was on his way to hell and made him an heir of heaven! What marvelous grace! What free and undeserved love! Angels have a holy passion to see the grace of God unfold in your life! This should cause us to treasure our salvation all the more – salvation by grace through faith in Jesus – a salvation that was prophesied by the prophets, proclaimed by preachers and displayed before angels

September 29, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:6-9

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080921_1peter_1_6-9.mp3

9/21 1 Peter 1:6-9 trials; necessity, purpose and outcome

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1: 6 en w agalliasye oligon arti ei deon luphyentev en poikiloiv peirasmoiv 7 ina to dokimion umwn thv pistewv polutimoteron crusiou tou apollumenou dia purov de dokimazomenou eureyh eiv epainon kai doxan kai timhn en apokaluqei ihsou cristou 8 on ouk idontev agapate eiv on arti mh orwntev pisteuontev de agalliate cara aneklalhtw kai dedoxasmenh 9 komizomenoi to telov thv pistewv swthrian qucwn

Peter is addressing the suffering saints in Asia Minor. He recognizes their situation as aliens – exiles in their own hometowns because of their decision to follow Jesus. But he points them to their position before God – they are elect, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, and for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.

And then he leads them in worship. He points them to the work of God in their new birth. Their new life in Jesus is rooted in the great mercy of God the Father. He caused them to be born again, and they were born into a living hope. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead secures their hope in the inheritance that they have been born into. That inheritance is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, it is kept safe in heaven for us and God’s power is at work to keep us believing so that we indeed will receive the promised inheritance. God’s power is guarding us right now through our faith for the final salvation that we look forward to. This is foundation for worship, and it is a cause to rejoice. Peter points his struggling readers to their source of joy so that they can stand firm even in the middle of trials.

In this you rejoice; this, that God fathered you into a new life of hope in an incredible inheritance, and that God is keeping the inheritance safe for you and is keeping you for the inheritance. Peter goes out on a limb here and assumes that his readers are indeed rejoicing in their salvation. These are people who are suffering for their faith. They are aliens in their own communities. They certainly have a lot on their minds, but he confidently says ‘in this you rejoice’. He is certain that any true believer will resonate with joy over what he has said. I am filled with joy when I think of how rich in mercy God is toward a hell deserving sinner like me. My joy overflows when I reflect on the new life that God has created in me. I am engulfed in delight when I think of the inheritance that awaits me, secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I am flooded with a sense of awe and thanksgiving when I think that God by his awesome power is at work to keep me believing so that I will receive the inheritance. Joy is a ‘given’ in the Christian life. Rejoicing over God at work in our salvation is something we Christians do. As Peter begins to address the issue of suffering as a Christian, he first points them to this overarching joy that spans the chasm of suffering and keeps us looking toward the goal of our salvation in spite of the trials. Peter says a few things here about the trials we face, that are essential to preserve the proper outlook.

  1. The Necessity of Trials

  2. The Character, Variety and Duration of Trials

  3. The Purpose of Trials

  4. The Certain Outcome of Trials

First, the necessity of trials. Trials are necessary. But he’s not talking about circumstantial necessity or inevitability – fate. Bad things are bound to happen and there’s nothing anybody (even God) can do about it. No, he is saying they are necessary, in that they are designed to serve an essential purpose in your salvation. This is not the necessity of chance, this is the necessity of the plan of God being worked out. What God plans he will do (Is. 46:11). This is the kind of necessity Jesus spoke of when he said:

Luke 24:7 …that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

Peter makes it explicit that this is what he means in:

1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

So we can take comfort that whatever trials we face today, they are not meaningless or senseless or random. They are designed by our merciful Father to play an essential part in our salvation. We can trust him that they are for our good.

The second thing we learn about trials is their character, variety and duration. He says ‘you have been grieved by various trials’. Peter does not make light of their trials. He acknowledges that they are weighty – heavy. Grief is real and it is painful. He uses the same word that is used of Jesus’ sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

Peter is not asking us to just put on a happy face. Christians do grieve, but we do not grieve as others who have no hope (1Thes.4:13)

And Peter is not quick to say ‘oh, I’ve been through that. I know exactly how you feel’, because he knows that the experience of trials is different for everyone. He says ‘you have been grieved by various trials’. The word literally means ‘many colored or variegated ‘.

Their trials are unique and they are grievous, but they are also short. He says ‘though now for a little while‘. Peter is not saying that he knows their trials will soon come to an end. Some of his readers may suffer their whole life. Some may die suffering. He is not saying that their suffering is short in comparison to other people’s suffering. He is saying that their grief will be short in comparison with eternal joy. We see that this eternal perspective is his frame of reference from verse 7, where he points to ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’. Paul puts it this way:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

2 Corinthians 4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus,… 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

So trials are temporal, they are necessary, they are grievous, and they come in many colors, but what is their purpose? In verse 7 he says ‘so that’; that indicates purpose.

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

God has a purpose in your trials. Satan has a purpose in your trials too. Satan would like to destroy your faith and cause you to walk away from Jesus. He seeks to devour you and steal your joy. God’s purpose for trials is different. Jesus said:

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

While Satan’s purpose is to destroy, God’s purpose is to test your faith in order to prove it genuine. Muscles, if they are not used, will atrophy. Muscles need to be exercised to stay healthy and grow. God has given you the muscle of faith. Now God is bringing into your life circumstances and experiences that will cause you to get up out of the easy chair of complacency and apathy and fight the good fight to believe (1Tim.6:12).

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called …

Remember, we learned in verse 5 that God, by his power, is guarding or keeping you for salvation through faith. I think this verse explains the phrase ‘through faith‘ in that verse. How is God in his power using my faith as a means to preserve me for salvation? One answer is that God is bringing the exercise of adversity against the muscle of my faith so that my faith will be vital and thrive rather than atrophy and die. Trials prove faith. Anyone can say they believe in Jesus. Anyone can say a prayer. But when adversity comes, it reveals the true nature of that faith. If it was mere lip service to please a person, testing will reveal it for what it is. Genuine faith, when it meets adversity will cling all the more closely to Jesus. But the trials serve a good purpose even if your faith is proved fake. When trials come and you let go of Jesus and cling to other things, that should awaken you to what you are truly trusting in and cause you to turn from that to Jesus.

Peter compares the tested genuine faith that trials produce to the most precious and enduring thing that we know – gold. Gold for thousands of years has not lost its value. Gold when it is refined does not perish but becomes more pure and more valuable. But Peter tells us that compared to gold, genuine faith is more valuable and less perishable. Tested faith is worth more and will last longer than gold! That’s amazing, because I think of my faith as fickle and unreliable.

Think of Peter. Peter saw Jesus walking on the water in the storm, and Peter believed that if Jesus commanded, he could come. But when he saw the wind he was afraid and began to sink (Mat.14:28-31). If my faith were solely up to me, I would be sunk and give up hope. But when I realize that my faith is a gift of God, and God is using his power to sustain my faith, then I begin to see how my faith could be more precious and less perishable than gold.

And the next phrase boggles the imagination!

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

At the revelation of Jesus Christ, when my faith has proved genuine because God gave it to me and sustained me in it, God is going to praise and honor and glory in me! God will sustain your faith through the trial, and then when you arrive safely in heaven, God will crown you because your faith stood through the trial!

But we might ask ‘how can I know if my faith is the genuine kind that will last or if it is fake and will be destroyed by the fire? What will be the outcome of the trial?’ I think the next verse answers this question. Peter observes the new affections and the new delights of the believing community, and points to this as evidence of tested genuine faith.

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Jesus is not yet revealed. We can’t see him. We can’t sit down with him and talk over a glass of wine and a loaf of bread. We don’t see him walking our streets, healing the sick and raising the dead. We can’t hear him speaking with infinite wisdom and authority, confounding his enemies and comforting the downcast. How do you love someone that you have never met? Peter points his readers to their love for Jesus as evidence of the genuineness of their faith. In spite of not having seen him, you love him. Even though you don’t now see him, you believe in him.

Notice how belief and love are parallel ideas? The kind of belief or genuine faith we are talking about is not an intellectual agreement with certain facts. Genuine faith does include an appreciation for certain foundational truths, but it also necessitates an emotional response. Jesus is not the distasteful firefighter with awful body odor and annoying mannerisms that you tolerate as he carries you down the ladder simply because the fire is worse than his smell and once you are safe, other than a polite thank you card, you will never have to see him again. No, Jesus is the one, fire or no fire, I just want to be near him, to know him and be known by him, to admire him, to enjoy his presence.

Notice, too, that joy is characteristic of the Christian life. Peter is not telling the believers what they should be doing, he is simply stating what they are already naturally doing. They love Jesus, they believe into Jesus, they rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. This is a joy that simply cannot be put into words. This is a doxological joy – a joy that is full of glory; full of praise. It cannot be communicated except by the common experience of it. This is a joy that is known by anyone that has a healthy understanding of their own hopeless undeserving condition, who has experienced the limitless mercy of our good God, who so loved us that he gave his only Son, who has given us new birth and adopted us into his own family, made us participants in an unfathomable inheritance. I am loved by God the Father, I am being set apart by the Holy Spirit, I am washed clean by the blood of Jesus, one day I will receive praise and honor and glory in his presence when he says ‘well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master (Mat.25:21)’ not because I have been able to pull it off, but because he has been at work in me sovereignly empowering me to persevere to the end.

Joy is not an optional extra in the Christian life like the way you order your salad – I’d like lots of peace sprinkled all over it. Can I have the joy on the side? Hold the longsuffering. No. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is in you, he is producing joy. Jesus said:

Luke 6:22-23 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven;

It is interesting that the context of Jesus command to rejoice and leap for joy is the similar circumstance of being hated and excluded and reviled and spurned. Jesus is saying that you are blessed or joy-filled, in fact you can leap for joy when you face trials because, look, your reward is great in heaven! You are the elected rejected and your inheritance is certain. Your loving and believing and joying in Jesus is evidence that you are obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

So we can rejoice and praise God even in the midst of trials because we can see that trials are necessary; they are not senseless and random, but they are ordained by God for a good purpose. And the purpose of trials is to prove our faith genuine, to force us to flex the muscle of faith so that it does not atrophy. And we can have confidence that the outcome of the trials is certain. When we see love for Jesus and believing into Jesus and joy in Jesus welling up in our hearts even in the midst of adversity, we are seeing evidence of the Spirit of God at work in us creating new affections and new desires. We are obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

September 21, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:3-5

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080914_1peter_1_3-5.mp3

9/14 1 Peter 1:3-5 praise God for new birth and the guarding of my faith

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1:3 euloghtov o yeov kai pathr tou kuriou hmwn ihsou cristou o kata to polu autou eleov anagennhsav hmav eiv elpida zwsan di anastasewv ihsou cristou ek nekrwn 4 eiv klhronomian afyarton kai amianton kai amaranton tethrhmenhn en ouranoiv eiv umav 5 touv en dunamei yeou frouroumenouv dia pistewv eiv swthrian etoimhn apokalufyhnai en kairw escatw

Peter is writing to encourage the suffering saints scattered across Asia Minor to stand firm in the true grace of God.

5:12 …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

He points them first to their position as Christians in tension; they are the elected rejected; the chosen outcasts. And he points them to the work of the trinity in securing this position for them. The Father had foreknown them; the Spirit sets them apart; they are destined for obedience to the gospel and washing with Jesus’ blood. He points them to the origin, the experience and the destiny of their elect standing with God.

Next, and flowing out of the trinitarian work of election, he leads the suffering church in worship. This teaches us some things about worship: worship is appropriate even in hard times. Peter’s readers may have read this and responded ‘but we don’t feel like blessing God. Peter, we want you to lobby the government about our situation. Get some good lawyers to change the political landscape. Raise some funds to give us some relief from our difficult circumstances.’ But Peter starts by turning their attention away from their situation and toward God. They need to look up and have God in his awesome majesty consume their entire field of vision before they can look rightly at their own circumstances.

Another thing we learn about worship: worship is substantive. Worship is not merely a feeling or experience. It is that, but it is more. It is a feeling or experience based on and coming out of solid biblical truth. We will see what Peter points to as a foundation for their worship.

This text is a worship text. So I pray that as we study it together and learn what it says, our response is that of worship. I hope that a deep heartfelt sense of gratitude wells up inside each one of us. So after his profoundly deep theological greeting, He starts with the words ‘Blessed be’ or ‘praise be’. The word is ‘ euloghtov eulogetos‘ and it’s where we get our English word ‘eulogy’. When I think of an eulogy, I think of all the nice things someone says that may or may not be true of the person in the casket. Their strong points are exaggerated; their weaknesses are forgotten. They are painted larger than life. But when our eulogy, our praise is directed toward God, we are seeking to express what is true about him, to give him the honor and praise that is his due. That is what worship is – declaring the worth of God, speaking to him and to ourselves and to those within earshot of how truly awesome he really is.

Our worship is directed to God. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not just addressing any god. Peter specifies – this is the God that Jesus worshiped and prayed to. Jesus connected us with the God who revealed himself in the Old Testament scriptures as YHWH, the self existent creator of all things, who would send his only Son to suffer and die for our sins. This is the God and the Father of Jesus. Jesus described his relationship with God the Father in terms of the relation of a loving father to his son, and he said this was true even before the foundation of the world:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Jesus is described as ‘our Lord’; our master, our sovereign, our ruler, our king, the one we submit to as our absolute authority. And he is the Christ – the fulfillment of all messianic hope and expectation. Our worship is directed to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And then the grounds for worship are given. Why are we worshiping? Because of who God is and what he has done. Before he explains the main subject of his praise, Peter gives a descriptive phrase about the character of God: ‘according to his great mercy’. This is the origin of what follows. Just as God’s foreknowledge was the source or origin of our election in verses 1-2, now God’s great mercy is the source of his action toward us. God is a merciful God. So let’s define mercy:

mer·cy \ˈmər-sē\ noun 1 a: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment <begged for mercy> b: imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder (taken from m-w.com)

Mercy is forbearance shown to an offender; not giving the guilty party the full punishment that their crime deserves; clemency.

When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said:

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Part of God’s glory is his authority and freedom to show mercy to whom he wills. And when God declared his nature and character to Moses, he started with mercy:

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

The distinction between mercy and grace is that mercy is negative and grace is positive. Mercy is the ‘slow to anger’; grace is the ‘abounding in steadfast love’. God’s mercy is his not giving us the punishment we deserve; grace is giving us blessings we didn’t earn. From our point of view, mercy is not getting what we do deserve; grace is getting what we don’t deserve. And Peter praises God because God has ‘much mercy’. One way to encourage persecuted Christians is to remind them of what they deserve but have been spared of. These Christians might fear the emperor; if they don’t bow and worship him as a god, they might even be put to death. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

We have committed hight treason against the King of kings. We refuse to bend our knee. We think and feel and act as if we were more important than the king. We walk into his presence and expect Him to bow to us and do what we demand! If we contemplate who we are and what our sins deserve, this is grounds for worship! Praise God that he is more than just and righteous! Praise God that he has ‘much mercy’!

Peter tells us here that God’s mercy is the source of our new birth. It is according to the muchness of his mercy that he has caused us to be born again. This is the same metaphor that Jesus used with Nicodemus to describe the work of the Spirit. I want you to think for a moment about being born. I trust all of you in this room have been born, so we share that common experience. Reflect back on your conception and birth. What was your part in it? Could you in any way say that you caused your conception and birth or was it something that happened to you? You can thank God for it or you can complain to God about it, but you can’t take credit for it. That’s what Nicodemus struggles with when Jesus tells him that he must be born again. How can I do that? What do I have to do? I can’t very well get back inside my mother’s womb. Being born isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens to you. Jesus pointed to the fact that rebirth is the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter here points us to the truth that our new birth is a merciful act caused by God. And when you’re born, you’re born into something. We were all born into this cold cruel world. I was born into my family. Peter tells us that we were born again into a living hope. Jesus said:

John 10:10 …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

And when we were conceived spiritually by the Father, that new life was created in us. We were dead, but God in his mercy made us alive.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved––

Peter is writing to scattered aliens in a hostile community. People will treat us badly. They might make fun of us. They might take our stuff. They might even harm us or kill us. And Peter tells them that they have an unquenchable life force inside of them that gives an unshakable hope in the future. When the gun is at the head of the Christian we can say with joy:

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

And that’s the new life inside of us speaking. This new life comes ‘through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ We might think, since we’re talking about the Father and new birth that it would say ‘through the incarnation in the manger at Bethlehem’. But never is our new birth tied to the incarnation. The new life we have is resurrection life.

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Ephesians 1:18 …that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

And that is the power that is at work in us as a result of our new birth. And this resurrection power is securing for us our inheritance. By the Father’s great mercy he has given us new birth and since we are born into his family, we are born into his inheritance:

4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

Here’s where language fails us and disappoints. Peter doesn’t tell us what the inheritance is. All he can tell us is what it’s not. Your inheritance is so !!!! There’s no words to express it. So think of the best earthly inheritance you can think of and I’ll tell you how it’s different. Peter tells us the inheritance we have is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is free from death and decay; it is free from uncleanness or moral impurity; it is free from the natural ravages of time. And it is not kept in the stock market which can plummet on any given day. It is kept in heaven for you. Just as Jesus said:

Matthew 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

So your inheritance is incredible beyond words. It is free from all the negative implications that an inheritance might have here. The inheritance is safe. Nobody can get to it. But that may raise the question: will you be able to get to it? Is it so safe that you will not be able to access it? It is kept safe for you, but in the end will it be kept safe from you? It is safe in heaven, but what if I can’t make it safe to heaven to claim it? What if I fail along the way? Will I make it? What if I throw in the towel; give up; what if I stop believing? So Peter turns his attention from the inheritance to you, the elected rejected:

5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

So God’s resurrection power produced the new life in you, and God is keeping the inheritance safe for you, and now God’s sovereign power is keeping you for the inheritance. The word ‘guarded’ is a military term that can mean both ‘kept from escaping’ and ‘protected from attack’ [Grudem, p.58]. The issue clearly is salvation; our future final salvation. We are being guarded for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. We are not being guarded until the salvation is made ready – Jesus work is finished and perfect. The salvation is ready and waiting for the right time to be revealed. The implication is that if we were not being guarded by the power of God we might not be saved. So from what are we being guarded and how are we being guarded? Peter is going to warn us in chapter 5 to:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober–minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

So we could say that we are being guarded from the devil. But in what way is Satan seeking to devour us? We could say he is seeking to kill us. But if that is what we are being protected from, then God’s power to guard has failed Peter and countless other Christian martyrs. If Satan succeeds in killing a believer, he has only sped them on their way to heaven – remember, to die is gain! So the guarding can’t mean that they are protected physically. The only way the devil could devour a believer is to cause him to walk away from Jesus and stop clinging to Jesus. Paul warns about the potential of believing in vain:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you––unless you believed in vain.

Jesus used the image of a branch being connected to the vine and drawing its life from the vine, and he warned:

John 15:6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

So if we don’t hold fast to the gospel we will have believed in vain, and we will not be saved, and if we walk away from Jesus we will be destroyed and Satan will have won. So being guarded by the power of God must mean that God is guarding our faith. God is using his power to keep us believing. I think the context makes it clear that we are on the right track. Peter says in verse:

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––…––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

And in this verse he says:

5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

So God is not guarding us in spite of whether we keep on believing or not. He is guarding us through our faith. He has caused us to be born again, and he will nurture that life of faith so that we are indeed saved in the end. I think this was especially personal and precious to Peter. Before his betrayal and arrest, Jesus said to Peter:

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus was going to allow an intense trial in Peter’s life to sift him, so that the chaff would blow away and only the wheat would remain. The danger of this is that if Satan is allowed to sift you, there might prove to be nothing left. And Jesus says ‘but I have prayed for you’ and what was his prayer? ‘that your faith may not fail’. Jesus was sustaining Peter’s faith. And Jesus wasn’t wondering what the outcome would be. I wonder if Peter will make it. When Jesus sustains your faith, your faith will not fail. And Jesus is praying for us too:

1 John 2:1 … we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Jesus looked right through the trial to the other side and said ‘and when (not if but when) you have turned again, strengthen your brothers’. Peter was sifted like wheat. He denied Jesus three times. And he went out and wept bitterly. Those tears were produced by God in answer to Jesus’ prayer. And Peter is now strengthening his brothers scattered across Asia Minor and strengthening us by reminding us that God’s power is guarding us by keeping us believing so that we will obtain the inheritance in the end. All the resources of sovereign omnipotence are fighting for your faith. God is at work in you to keep you believing. And this is a reason to worship God. God’s great mercy has caused us to be born again and God’s great power is guarding us so that our faith does not fail and we do obtain the promised inheritance.

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

September 14, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:1-2

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080907_1peter_1_1-2.mp3

9/07 1 Peter 1:1-2 Christians in Tension

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 petrov apostolov ihsou cristou eklektoiv parepidhmoiv diasporav pontou galatiav kappadokiav asiav kai biyuniav 2 kata prognwsin yeou patrov en agiasmw pneumatov eiv upakohn kai rantismon aimatov ihsou cristou cariv umin kai eirhnh plhyunyeih

Peter introduces himself simply as ‘apostle’. In many of Paul’s writings, he expands this part of the greeting by adding a phrase like ‘by the will of God’ to defend his apostleship. Peter has no need to defend his apostolic authority. He was commissioned by Jesus Christ to speak on his behalf and with his authority. So this letter is to be received as if it came from Jesus and with his authority. If you don’t like what it says, take it up with Jesus. Jesus charged Peter to ‘feed my lambs …tend my sheep… feed my sheep’ (Jn.21); and in this letter Peter, as a shepherd, is tending to the needs of the suffering sheep that are scattered across Asia Minor. Peter is buttressing the belief of his readers by pointing them to God and to strong truths about God. They can stand firm in the fiery trial because of who God is and what he is doing for them and in them. They need an unshakable theological understanding under their feet so that they can stand as Christians in the middle of a hostile society. He declares his purpose in 5:12

5:12 …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

Peter is coming alongside the believers, encouraging them and testifying to them of the truth about God. He wants to see holiness developed in them. He wants to see them stand firm in the grace of God. He wants to strengthen their hope that God, Father, Son and Spirit, is working for their good to secure their salvation.

It’s a bit peculiar that in a letter to people Peter has probably never met, he says hardly anything about his own identity, but he spends a lot of time telling the readers who they are. We would say ‘Hi, you don’t know me, so let me tell you about myself’. Instead Peter says ‘you don’t know me, so let me tell you who you are.’ That seems odd for a stranger to say ‘I don’t know you very well, but let me tell you about yourself’. He is telling them things that are true about them that they either don’t know, or that they know but need to be reminded of. Peter wants them to understand their identity in Christ. They need to know who they are.

He addresses them as ‘elect exiles of the dispersion’. He uses the Jewish metaphor of ‘diaspora’ or ‘dispersion’. In 722 B.C. The Assyrians under Shalmaneser V conquered and carried off many from the northern kingdom of Israel and then in 588 B.C. under Nebuchadnezzar II the southern kingdom of Judah was carried off into Babylon. The nations into which they went did their best to assimilate them and integrate them into their society, culture and religion. The Jews had to struggle to retain their ethnic and religious distinctiveness. Because they maintain their unique identity, they are ‘exiles’ or sojourners, resident aliens in a place that is not their home.

This was the experience of Abraham. God had called Abram the idol worshiper of Ur of the Chaldeans to:

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. …

Abraham went to the land and he described himself to the Hittites as:

Genesis 23:4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you;…”

The author of Hebrews uses the same wording that Peter does to describe the situation of the Old Testament saints:

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

Because these people had embraced Jesus as their God, they had become strangers in their own hometowns. They no longer belong to the culture in which they live. They have become sojourners. But he describes them as ‘elect exiles’ or ‘chosen outcasts’ or ‘ the selected rejected’. These are Christians in tension. In relation to the culture in which they reside, they are outside the group. They are different. They don’t belong. They don’t fit in. They don’t think and feel and act the way the rest of society thinks and feels and acts. And because of that, they are rejected and persecuted. But in relation to God they are elect. They have been chosen, hand picked. They have been called out by name. They are loved by God. The word ‘elect’ eklektov means those who have been selected as a subset of a larger group. ISBE says “…prevalently in the New Testament, it denotes a human community, also described as believers, saints, the Israel of God; regarded as in some sense selected by Him from among men, objects of His special favor, and correspondingly called to special holiness and service.” This is a common name for Christians in the New Testament, and often they are described as ‘God’s elect’ or ‘his elect’.

Mark 13:20 …But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose,…

Mark 13:22 … signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

Mark 13:27 …gather his elect from the four winds…

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?…

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones,…

Titus 1:1 …for the sake of the faith of God’s elect

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race… a people for his own possession…

This term points to the safety and security of the believer’s position with God. We cannot lose our position because we didn’t attain it by climbing the ladder of accomplishment. God picked us out and placed us here, and he will also preserve and protect us. It is a position of privilege to be picked to be on God’s team. But this choice of God is also the source of our trouble here on earth. When you get picked for the team, your friends who didn’t get picked get jealous and hostile and angry. This is exactly what Jesus told his disciples would happen:

John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Because God chose you to be his own, the world hates you. So don’t cry when you look around and see that the world hates you. Remember, it’s because you were picked out by God. The world hates you because you’re on God’s team now and you are different from them. Because we are elect, we are exiles, sojourners. We no longer belong. Paul describes our alien status this way:

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Peter uses three prepositional phrases to further describe his readers, the ‘elect exiles of the dispersion’. He says they are ‘according to’, ‘in’ and ‘for’. And he describes the work of the triune God in their lives; God the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ. He says in verse 2:

2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

First, he says they are elect exiles of the dispersion ‘according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’. The word foreknowledge ‘prognwsiv‘ is a compound of ‘pro‘ before and ‘ginwskw‘ to know. It means ‘to know before’. This is where we get our English word ‘prognosis’, which the dictionary defines as ‘A prediction of the probable course and outcome’ But with God, it is not merely the probable course and outcome that he knows, but he knows and can predict with absolute certainty the course and outcome. But the use of the word ‘foreknowledge’ in the bible means more than simply God’s omniscience and his ability to know the future ahead of time. That is certainly true, and that is what the word means when it is used with and event or an object. But the concept of knowing when it is used with a person as its object carries with it the idea of relationship. All the way back in the beginning, it says:

Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…

There is clearly more than intellectual comprehension involved in this kind of ‘knowing’. God uses this word of Abraham:

Genesis 18:18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Of the prophet Jeremiah, God says:

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Notice the parallels between ‘knew’, ‘consecrated’, and ‘appointed’. In Amos, God says to Israel:

Amos 3:1-2 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: 2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth…

The context is that God is about to punish Israel and their sins are especially grievous because he has a special relationship with them. That can’t possibly mean that God was unaware that there were other people on the planet besides Israel.

The only other place in the New Testament that this word occurs is in Acts 2:23 where it is coupled with the ordained will of God:

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

The verb form appears in:

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 11:2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?

1 Peter 1:20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake,

The concept of foreknowledge carries not only the idea of comprehension of future events, but when the word is used of people, it carries the idea of a purpose of relationship. The readers of Peter’s letter are elect exiles of the dispersion according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. They are chosen according to the Father’s purpose to enter into relationship with them. They are picked for intimacy with the Father. And Peter tells them this right up front in his letter; before he even says ‘hello’. He urgently wants them to hear this truth so that they would be encouraged in their suffering by it and take hope. Yes, you are an outcast in your family and in society, but God the Father chose to place his love on you! So he describes them as elect exiles according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

Then he describes them as elect exiles ‘in or by means of the sanctification of the Spirit’. Sanctification ‘agiasmov‘ means ‘consecration, purification, or holiness’. Something that is sanctified is set apart for a specific use. Paul talks about vessels set apart for a specific use:

2 Timothy 2:21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

In that day there were specific vessels that were set apart for the preparation and serving of food. There were other vessels used in the bedchamber as a commode. They were set apart for that use. In a pinch, you might take a vessel set apart for kitchen use and use it as a commode, but that vessel would never be fit for kitchen service again. That’s the concept of being ‘sanctified’ or ‘set apart’; you’re the dirty clay pot, but you’ve been cleansed and purified and made holy, made fit for honorable use. And this is specifically said to be the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God cleans you and sets you apart for a good use.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

And these elect exiles had a purpose. They were elect exiles ‘for or into obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood’. Their purpose is to be brought into obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus. Obedience (upakoh) comes from the root ‘to hear’ and ‘under’; it means to be under authority, to hear and obey. Several times in the New Testament this word is used to describe people’s response to the gospel message:

Romans 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

Romans 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience––by word and deed,

Romans 16:25-27 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, …according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith–– to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Hebrews 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

So where we would say things like ‘they got saved’ or ‘trusted Jesus’ or ‘believed the gospel’, the New Testament writers also described this as ‘they obeyed the gospel’ or ‘became obedient to the faith’ or ‘they obeyed Jesus’. Jesus said when he was asked:

John 6:28-29 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Obedience is one side of the picture of our purpose. The other side is ‘into the sprinkling blood of Jesus Christ’. The picture of sprinkling blood comes from the covenant God made with the people in Exodus:

Exodus 24:5-8 …offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Upon their declaration of submission to God and obedience to him, they were sprinkled with his blood. And the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant

Hebrews 9:13-15 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance…

So we have the elected rejected, according to the Father’s purpose to set his love on us; by the Holy Spirit’s work of setting us apart for honorable use, and into the obedience to the truth and cleansing by the blood of Jesus. We see this same sequence in 2 Thessalonians as a grounds for thanksgiving:

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

And now, after Peter has poured out this theological foundation for the faith of these suffering saints and pointed them to the Triune God who is at work in them to secure for them their eternal salvation, now he says ‘hi’. He says ‘May grace and peace be multiplied to you’. Grace, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense; God’s goodness poured out on undeserving sinners; blessings and kindness that we didn’t earn and couldn’t deserve.

Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

And because God is gracious toward us, we can

Romans 5:1 …we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself

So Peter takes his readers who are feeling like aliens without any sense of belonging, and he lifts their eyes (and ours) up from the dirt and points to a God who is for us, who chose us, to the Father who set his love upon us, the Spirit who is at work in us to set us apart and to make us holy; to Jesus, who upon our obedience to the good news, sprinkles us clean with his precious blood. And he asks that this undeserved grace of God and this blood-bought peace with God be exaggerated to us, that God’s grace and peace would flood over us and overwhelm us and surround us and hold us.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

elect exiles of the dispersion…

according to the foreknowledge of God the Father

in the sanctification of the Spirit

for obedience

and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ

September 7, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment